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ACM ByteCast

ACM ByteCast is a podcast series from ACM’s Practitioners Board in which hosts Rashmi Mohan and Jessica Bell interview researchers, practitioners, and innovators who are at the intersection of computing research and practice. In each episode, guests will share their experiences, the lessons they’ve learned, and their own visions for the future of computing.

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Leslie Lamport - Episode 16 (Special Episode in Partnership with the Hanselminutes Podcast)

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, our special guest host Scott Hanselman (of The Hanselminutes Podcast) welcomes 2013 ACM A.M. Turing Award laureate Leslie Lamport of Microsoft Research, best known for his seminal work in distributed and concurrent systems, and as the initial developer of the document preparation system LaTeX and the author of its first manual. Among his many honors and recognitions, Lamport is a Fellow of ACM and has received the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award, the Dijkstra Prize, and the IEEE John von Neumann Medal.Leslie shares his journey into computing, which started out as something he only did in his spare time as a mathematician. Scott and Leslie discuss the differences and similarities between computer science and software engineering, the math involved in Leslie’s high-level temporal logic of actions (TLA), which can help solve the famous Byzantine Generals Problem, and the algorithms Leslie himself has created. He also reflects on how the building of distributed systems has changes since the 60s and 70s. Subscribe to the Hanselminutes Podcast: https://www.hanselminutes.com/.Links: Time-Clocks Paper Bakery Algorithm Mutual Exclusion Algorithm


27 May 2021

Rank #1

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Suchi Saria - Episode 15

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts Suchi Saria, the John C. Malone Associate Professor of Machine Learning and Healthcare at Johns Hopkins University, where she uses big data to improve patient outcomes. She directs the Machine Learning and Healthcare Lab and is the founding research director of the Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare. Saria has worked on projects with the NSF, NIH, DARPA, and the FDA and is the founder of Bayesian Health. Her many recognitions include Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10”, the MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35, and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Suchi describes tinkering with LEGO Mindstorm and reading about AI and the future as a child in India and how, years later, she ended up at the forefront of applying machine learning techniques to computational biology. She explains how ML can help healthcare go from a reactive to a predictive and preventive model, and the challenge of making sure that the medical data collected is actionable, interpretable, safe, and free of bias. She also talks about the transition from research to practice and offers her best advice for students interested in pursuing computing.


4 May 2021

Rank #2

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Luis von Ahn - Episode 14

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts past ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award recipient Luis von Ahn, co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, the world's most popular language-learning platform. He is also a Consulting Professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. Known as one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing, his many recognitions include the MacArthur Fellowship, MIT Technology Review's TR35, and the Lemelson-MIT Prize. They discuss how he, Manuel Blum, and others at Carnegie Mellon conceived the now famous technology behind reCAPTCHA, the company he founded before Duolingo, and sold to Google in 2009. Von Ahn gives insight into his journey toward harnessing the power of crowdsourcing to provide free, globally distributed language learning. They discuss the dominance of the English language in computing, the benefits and challenges of starting a company in Pittsburgh, some Duolingo user stories Luis has found particularly gratifying, and more.


9 Apr 2021

Rank #3

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Ramesh Raskar - Episode 13

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor at MIT Media Lab where he directs the Camera Culture research group. He holds more than 90 patents in computer vision, computational health, sensors, and imaging, and has co-authored books on Spatial Augmented Reality, Computational Photography, and 3D Imaging. His many awards and recognitions include the prestigious 2004 TR100 (MIT Technology Review), 2016 Lemelson–MIT Prize, and 2017 ACM SIGGRAPH Award. Raskar discusses the fascinating research field dedicated to capturing and recording the world in new ways. He explains how computer vision provides a new eye and brain to help us both in seeing and processing the world and shares his recent work with extremely high-speed imaging. He also mentions his COVID-19 project: developing privacy-first contact-tracing tools to stem the spread of the outbreak. Raskar also discusses balancing entrepreneurship and research, and his REDX project to bring peer-to-peer invention to his students and advance AI for Impact. Follow Ramesh and PathCheck Foundation on Twitter. Camera Culture research group at MIT Media Lab. PathCheck Foundation (COVID-19 research & technology)


15 Mar 2021

Rank #4

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Denae Ford - Episode 12

In this episode of ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts Denae Ford, a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research in the Software Analysis and Intelligence Team (SAINTes) group and an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Human Centered Design and Engineering Department at the University of Washington. Her research lies at the intersection of human-computer interaction and software engineering. In her work she identifies and dismantles cognitive and social barriers by designing mechanisms to support software developer participation in online socio-technical ecosystems. Ford is also a recipient of the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship. She is best known for her research on just-in-time mentorship as a mode to empower welcoming engagement in collaborative Q&A for online programming communities, including open-source software and work to empower marginalized software developers in online communities. In the interview, Ford relates how an undergraduate research project inspired her to pursue a PhD in computing. She describes her approach in designing various research studies, the process she used to identify challenges and barriers to engagement in communities such as StackOverflow and GitHub, and how she and her collaborators went about building interventions. They also discuss how some of these interventions can be applied by industry. Ford also shares some future directions and developments in computing that most excite her—and the possibilities in making the field more equitable and inclusive.


24 Feb 2021

Rank #5

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Jeffrey Heer - Episode 11

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award recipient Jeffrey Heer. Heer is the co-founder of Trifacta, a provider of interactive tools for scalable data transformation, and the Jerre D. Noe Endowed Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where he directs the Interactive Data Lab and conducts research on data visualization, human-computer interaction, and social computing. The visualization tools developed by Heer and his collaborators – Vega(-Lite), D3.js, Protovis, Prefuse – are used by researchers, companies, and data enthusiasts around the world. In the interview, Heer explains how his longstanding interest in psychology and cognitive science led him to focus on human-computer interaction as a student in computing. He describes the deep satisfaction (and fun) of interdisciplinary research drawing on computer science, statistics, psychology, and design, as well as his passion for building open-source tools that people in the real world can use. He also covers some of the challenges particular to building visualizations in the age of big data, starting a company to commercialize academic research, and his current efforts to promote more comprehensive, robust, and transparent analysis results.


9 Feb 2021

Rank #6

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Maria Klawe - Episode 10

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, Rashmi Mohan hosts former ACM President Maria Klawe. Now in her 15th year as President of Harvey Mudd College, she is a fellow of ACM, CIPS, AAAS, AMS, and AWM, recipient of numerous awards and 17 honorary doctorates, and serves on the Board of Directors at Microsoft. In the wide-ranging interview Klawe, who started out in pure mathematics and moved to theoretical computer science, provides not only professional but personal perspectives on balancing research, management, and family responsibilities. She reflects on how roles in both industry (at IBM’s Almaden Research Center) and academia (as Dean of Science at the University of British Columbia and later as Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University) prepared her for her current position. She also describes her famously successful efforts to increase and maintain faculty and student diversity at Harvey Mudd. Finally, Klawe offers some ways of helping traditionally underserved student populations of students gain a foothold in computer science academic programs as well as in industry.


26 Jan 2021

Rank #7

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Vint Cerf - Episode 9

In the latest episode of ACM ByteCast, host Jessica Bell chats with former ACM President Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, an Internet pioneer widely recognized as one of “the fathers of the Internet.” His many recognitions include the ACM A.M. Turing Award, the National Medal of Technology, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Marconi Prize. Cerf takes us along on an amazing voyage from seeing his first tube-based computer in 1958 to his work on ARPANET and TCP/IP with Bob Kahn, providing a brief history of the Internet in the process. Along the way, he explains how they approached the problem of building a network architecture that scaled astronomically over time. Cerf also points to important social, business, and ethical problems yet to be resolved, and explains why it’s an exciting time to be a student in computing.


5 Jan 2021

Rank #8

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Jennifer Widom - Episode 8

In this episode, Rashmi Mohan welcomes ACM Fellow and past ACM-W Athena Lecturer Jennifer Widom, the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the School of Engineering and Fletcher Jones Professor in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Widom has made significant contributions to databases and data science. She’s a member of the NAE and AAAS, a Guggenheim Fellow, and recipient of the ACM SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award and EPFL-WISH Foundation Erna Hamburger Prize. Widom has co-authored textbooks widely used for teaching database systems design, use, and implementation, served as editor of top academic journals, and keynoted and chaired major conferences, such as SIGMOD and VLDB. She discusses her unconventional journey from undergraduate music performance major to computer science doctoral student and researcher at IBM’s Almaden lab, where her interest in databases and information management was cemented. Widom looks back on the heyday of Massively Open Online Courses, when her “Introduction to Databases” class had more than 100,000 enrolled students, and describes some of the challenges that have prevented MOOCs from truly upending higher education. She also describes her unusual sabbatical spent traveling the world and teaching free classes in databases and data science in developing countries, and offers bits of wisdom for those looking for similar experiences.


7 Dec 2020

Rank #9

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Shwetak Patel - Episode 7

In this episode of ACM ByteCast, host Jessica Bell welcomes 2018 ACM Prize in Computing recipient and 2011 MacArthur Fellow Shwetak Patel. Patel is a professor of computer science at the University of Washington and a director of a health technologies group at Google. He recalls his beginnings as a computer engineer with an interest in both hardware and software, which narrowed to computing during grad school. They discuss how “smart house” technology and working in construction stimulated his interest in building sensors and how applied research enables his work to have a greater social impact. Patel also offers valuable insights on the benefits of academia as a starting point for innovation, the global implications of his work, and advice to people entering his field.


9 Nov 2020

Rank #10